Railways, train lovers and their magnificent obsessions

A look at the Indian Railways from the eyes of the train lover.

A fuel train in the Shindawane Ghat (2010-05-06)Heritage Directorate, Indian Railways

India is a country full of railway enthusiasts or to put it in plain words – the train lover. Railway enthusiast is only a sophisticated name for the latter. Over the years, this interest in the railways may have reduced considerably, particularly with the younger generation which is more drawn to the automobile and air travel. But the rail enthusiast of years before, and many today, have their heart and soul in the railways.

Heading out of Ratnagiri (2013-11-28)Heritage Directorate, Indian Railways

The railway means different things to different enthusiasts. A rail enthusiast could be interested in the history of the railways, in its locomotives, coaches, wagons, its stations, its signalling systems, its ticketing methods, its bridges and tunnels, or even in the food served on railway platforms.

When a train passes, an ordinary observer notices but a string of coaches or wagons but an enthusiast takes note of the locomotive type, its number, its home shed, the type of coaches or wagons, and so on.

Train stops at Kangra station (2018-03-14)Kangra Valley Railway

A railway enthusiast can go to any extent to see one's favorite railway operation or one's favorite train. He or she can spend hours idling on a platform just to see the favourite mail rush past.

A freight train reaching a tunnel pass by Apurva BahadurHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

An enthusiast can spend a whole day in a locomotive shed or perched on the top of a hill, just waiting for a particular express or a heavy freight to come out of a tunnel.

Crossing the Pamban bridge (2014-05-15)Heritage Directorate, Indian Railways

In addition to the Indian enthusiast, many foreigners are deeply fascinated by the strange romance that the Indian Railways can weave around us.

On the one hand, the railway is quite current and contemporary while on the other, antiquated and archaic. Infact, Indian Railways can possibly be viewed in two different ways – a modern way of doing traditional railroading or a traditional way of doing modern railroading.

The 12617 Erakulam-Nizamuddin Mangala express (2012-11-23)Heritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Railway enthusiasts have diverse passions. Some would like to have a deep knowledge of the technology of trains; some would like to note down loco numbers; while others would like to travel. Some may enjoy dreaming about the nostalgic steam age, yet others prefer to build models.

But yes, one of the most avid and passionate rail enthusiast is the rail photographer.

Nizamuddin-Trivandaram Rajdhani in Goa (2013-03-18)Heritage Directorate, Indian Railways

In spite of this love for the railways, the words “RAIL ENTHUSIAST” seeped into the broader railway culture quite late in India. Though the enthusiasts existed in India for many years and silently went about their passion, their existence was neither noted nor recognised.

An important step in this direction was the formation of the “Friends of the National Railway Museum” which later became the “Indian Steam Railway Society”.

15-mile railwayHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

A bigger railway enthusiast movement came through the formation of the IRFCA (Indian Railway Fan Club Association). Though started in USA by a few Indian students, it caught on like fire in India and now boasts a website - “www.irfca.org”.

This website is filled with thousands of photographs of the Indian Railways and a huge amount of technical information and a large number of articles. This is a true treasure trove for the Indian rail enthusiast and even many railway officers take a look at the site.

A steam black beauty ready to work the Nilgiri ExpressHeritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Now there is a tacit acceptance of this strange breed of men and women coming from very different walks of life with one common interest —their passion for the Indian Railways.

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